Entomology and nematology are relatively young disciplines in Florida. Like the population of Florida, the study of entomology and nematology did not grow significantly until after World War II. While some northern states were granting Ph.D. degrees in entomology during the late 1800s, UF’s first Ph.D. in nematology was conferred in 1962, and the first Ph.D. in entomology was conferred in 1964 (you can read many of our first dissertations online for free).
However, the first M.S. degree with an entomological topic was published in 1913. In Florida, the Agricultural Experiment Station was created in 1888 and, beginning with William Ashmead, an entomologist was employed from that time forward. A Department of Entomology was formed in the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1911. Entomology at branch stations (now known as Research and Education Centers, or RECs) commenced in 1924 with positions established at Lake Alfred, and before long nearly all branch stations were staffed by entomologists. One of the earliest entomologists, J.R. Watson, initiated study of nematodes in Florida, but it was not until 1954 that a nematologist named J.R. Christie was hired for research on nematodes. A formal teaching component appeared in the department in 1924 with the creation of the Department of Economic Entomology and Plant Pathology in the College of Agriculture.
From the beginning of the Agricultural Experiment Station, researchers worked closely with growers to solve entomological problems, but it was not until 1943 that the first Extension specialist was hired to focus on apiculture. In these early years, faculty were hired to focus on one area: research, teaching or Extension. These three areas of the land-grant system operated independently until they were united as a single Department of Entomology in 1965, which was renamed Entomology and Nematology in 1969. Because research, teaching and Extension were housed in separate locations, they continued to function independently. It was not until 1990 that split appointments became commonplace for our faculty. This change coincided with the opening of our new building.
In 2011, the Entomology and Nematology building was renamed Steinmetz Hall. Charles Steinmetz, an alumnus of the Department and a retired pest management company owner, and his wife, Lynn, donated $5 million to the department to support our research, teaching and Extension programs.
Several papers have been published on the early history of the department. These papers provide an in-depth look at the people that helped build a foundation for our department.
A Brief History of Entomology in Florida By: A. N. Tissot, Milledge Murphey, Jr. and R. E. Waites, The Florida Entomologist, Vol. 37, No. 2, Commemorative Issue. Centennial of Professional Entomology (Jun., 1954), pp. 51-71 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3492101
History of Nematology in Florida. By: V. G. Perry, G. C. Smart, Jr., and K. B. Nguyen
John Thomas Creighton, A Pioneer in Entomology Education at the University of Florida, Fourth Pioneer Lecture Award Honoree. By: Wright, M. Lewis, Jr. The Florida Entomologist, Vol. 87, No. 1, (Mar., 2004), pp. 94-99.